Arts & Culture
2000 Readers Poll
2000 Critics Picks
Best Annual Fashion Event

High-end production values elevate this show above most student shows. Offering designs from all skill levels, it is a show that often gives young designers their first runway opportunity, which, from fittings to finale, is one of the most valuable learning experiences possible. The enormous crowds notwithstanding, the greatest asset is what it gives to the people of Austin.

University of Texas at Austin
727 E. Dean Keeton, 512/471-3434
Sarah M. & Charles E. Seay Building, Speedway & Dean Keeton, 512/471-1157
UT Architecture Library, 200 Battle Hall, 512/495-4620
University of Texas Department of Art & Art History, 2301 San Jacinto, 512/475-7718
www.utexas.edu

Best Art Incubator

In these boom-happy times, people seem to be forgetting what brought most folks to Austin in the first place: our vibrant creative atmosphere. It seems that we've also forgotten that in order to create works of cultural significance, artists need affordable office and studio space. The Artplex houses a variety of low-budget, grassroots arts organizations, from the Cinemaker Co-op to the Salvage Vanguard Theater. We like to wander through the exhibition-lined hallways and check the bulletin boards to keep current on upcoming openings, screenings, and events.

Best Avant-garde Fashion Designer

Mr. Coleman, a former member of the experimental noise group Liquid Mice and mad-scientist creator of the Mechanical Pit Bull that once (dis)graced the stage of the Letterman show, has been holed up in his foresty Bastrop sanctum for years now, creating such mind-blowing lingerie from wires and LEDs and acid-etched metal plates that his work's been featured in Playboy and on SNL alongside somewhat tamer creations by Helmut Lang and Jean-Paul Gaultier. This designer's so ahead of his time, he's downright post-apocalyptic.

Brooks Coleman
www.etsy.com/shop/brooksbot75

Best Biannual Fashion Event

Every six months, this extravaganza offers Austin's most entertaining and eye-popping assortment of fashion and fun. CDV's outdoor venue is a perfect setting for the runway hijinks of this charity benefit, loaded with local celebrities and dazzling clothes from some of Austin's premier independent retailers. Such diverse themes as "Death to Pastels" and "The History of Cher" ensure an ever-changing cast of characters both on- and off-stage.

Best Casual Grace

When rhythm tap master Acia Gray does her thing, it's clear that she's just doin' what comes naturally. We have no other explanation for her uncanny ease of movement, the effortlessness of her syncopation, and the unbridled joy she expresses in both feet and face. This co-founder of Tapestry Dance Company has the casual grace of the tap stars of old - Charles "Honi" Coles, the Nicholas Brothers, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson - and she appears as much at home in her dancing as those greats did. We've seen few artists who move as comfortably, as confidently, as naturally as Gray, or who radiate such jubilant fulfillment. She's as irresistible as they come. Long may she dance.

Best Classic Musical Productions

How many times now have we seen the ad for a Gypsy or a Fiddler on the Roof or a Music Man and thought - well, maybe not. The play was a dinosaur; how good could a local production of it be? Yada yada. But then we go, and time after time, we're blown away, socks knocked off. Every time, a Broadway-quality production. How do they do it? Longtime musical pros Richard Byron and Scott Thompson invest every show with top-notch talent, enthusiasm, old-school razzle-dazzle and their deep love for the great old musicals.

Austin Musical Theatre
2011 E. Riverside
512/292-9696

Best Classical Gas

Adding strings to popular music has been the norm since they first started skinning kitty cats, but when Golden Arm Trio's Graham Reynolds and Brown Whörnet's Peter Stopschinski decided to flex their classical music training and write symphonies, they galvanized the entire Austin indie underground. It was a beautiful thing. Having gone on to bassoon quartets and a half-dozen other classical music set-ups (nose-flute duos!), both keyboardists continue to stimulate the previously dormant classical leanings in the music-loving capital of the world. Combined with the fact that both bands are also two of Austin's best, Golden Arm Trio an eclectic jazz improv troupe and Brown Whörnet the thinking man's punk riot, roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Graham Reynolds
www.grahamreynolds.com

Peter Stopschinski

Best Classical Gas

Adding strings to popular music has been the norm since they first started skinning kitty cats, but when Golden Am Trio's Graham Reynolds and Brown Whörnet's Peter Stopschinski decided to flex their classical music training and write symphonies, they galvanized the entire Austin indie underground. It was a beautiful thing. Having gone on to bassoon quartets and a half-dozen other classical music set-ups (nose-flute duos!), both keyboardists continue to stimulate the previously dormant classical leanings in the music loving capitol of the world. Combined with the fact that both bands are also two of Austin's best, Golden Arm Trio an eclectic jazz improv troupe, and Brown Whörnet the thinking man's punk riot, roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Best Dance Leader

Creating vibrant, innovative dance is one talent. Guiding a growing arts institution is another. Stephen Mills is gifted in both, as he proved repeatedly throughout the 1999-2000 season as interim artistic director of Ballet Austin. As the company moved out of the era of former artistic director Lambros Lambrou and through a yearlong search for his successor, Mills took what could have been a directionless, drifting corps of dancers and bound them together in a series of energetic, inventive, and frequently witty ballets of his original choreography. There was something fresh onstage, and by the time he was named Ballet Austin's permanent artistic director, it was clear that in any dance, he will take the lead.

Stephen Mills
Ballet Austin
501 W. Third
www.balletaustin.org

Best Dream Designer

A snow-haired woman in a canary yellow vinyl dress emerges from a giant white clamshell. Ethereal figures in white antique dress glide past white walls in which chairs are mysteriously fused. A man dressed as President Lincoln sits atop a mound of earth seeded with hundreds of pennies. In other cities, people have to wait till they're asleep to view such wonders. In Austin, all we have to do is see a show designed by the absolutely fabulous Michael Raiford. Possessed of a vaulting imagination and wicked wit, this scenic and costume designer creates luxuriant stage spectacles that rival the fantasy worlds of Slumberland. Mr. Sandman can wait; we want to drift off with the dreamy Mr. Raiford.

Michael Raiford
Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar
www.zachtheatre.org

Best Fashion Fantasist

An accomplished designer with an extensive understanding of fashion and fantasy, Bonnell takes what could be ordinary theatrical wear and transforms it into haute couture costumes of high style and soaring imagination. Her wizard's touch has graced such Zachary Scott Theatre Center productions as Tommy, The Santaland Diaries, and Schoolhouse Rock, but no show shows what she's best at better than Zach's 1999 take on The Rocky Horror Show, where she took the classic but now-hackneyed look of that gender-bent horror musical, added a touch of Thierry Mugler, a daub of Claude Montana, and a whole lot of Leslie Bonnell, and created visual magic.

Leslie Bonnell
Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar
www.zachtheatre.org

Best Interactive Art Exhibition

Tired of static, two-dimensional canvases that passively engage the audience? Then check out "Dynamic Opposition," a selection of constructive and kinetic art that actually demands viewers take an active role. In fact, much of the work needs a viewer's movement to "make it work." The result is a roomful of dynamic structures that dazzle the senses and leave your head swirling for more. The show runs until November 20.

Harry Ransom Center
300 W. 21st
512/471-8944
www.hrc.utexas.edu

Best New Eastside Theatre Space

Take this warehouse on the East Side, O ye Refraction Arts team! Take it and transform it into a wonderground of performance! Reconstruct the interior to allow theatre in all its spectacle and verve, build ye a big tech booth near the rafters, have your next-door pals - Blue Genie Art Industries - embellish the exterior with a design so bold and so blue it rivals the big Texas sky. And hurry ye the hell up, for though we do love the Off Center, yea verily, we crave more artspace on the sunrise side of I-35! - And so they did. And it is good.

Blue Theatre
916 Springdale
512/927-1118
www.bluetheatre.org

Best Place To Pick Up A Geek

A friend of a friend sent around this e-mail one day. It was something about how a guy named Harry Pape was organizing a happy hour where you could meet fellow high tech professionals in a fun setting. Not being high tech professionals ourselves, we were intrigued by this e-mail, so we went to check it out. Five dollars gets you into the happy hour and buys your first drink. The proceeds from the door benefit various charities around town.There was lots of networking, a few business cards exchanged, and plenty of high tech hotties to go around.

Best Place To Witness Photographic History

To hell with the Gutenberg Bible, winning football teams, and Pulitzer Prizes. Other places have those. But only UT has the very first photograph ever taken. The first! Primo! In the 1820s, Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce experimented with various forms of heliographs and with plates made of copper, zinc, and finally pewter. After successfully taking the world's first photograph (which turns out to be of his courtyard at Gras), Niepce reportedly remarked, "I have seized the light! I have captured its flight!" Of course, he had time to think during the eight hours it took to expose the film and develop it in oil of lavender.

Best Promotion Of One Woman's Art

It takes a lot of work to get your client's creations into nearly every cafe-based space in town throughout the year and to drum up sufficient media coverage thereof. It takes organization and social engineering and a whole bunch of meetings with a plethora of people, it takes press-release generating on a scale normally attempted only by entire teams of PR wonks, and just that we're writing these words is testament to the Herculean efforts of Michelle Reeves in promoting the gloriously surreal ouvre of her partner Elizabeth Guenthner. All the better for us: Try not to see Guenthner's fabulous paintings somewhere. You'll fail happily.

Best Team Player

There aren't many theatres that haven't had this omnipresent actor, director, designer, and producer working on their stages at some time since he first arrived on the scene in the late 1970s. Stuart has been the one to call on for last-minute casting, designing a set on the fly, or just lending a hand during a typical opening-week crisis. Now the dedicated veteran is creating his own theatre in Flatonia, but we still expect to see him hard at work on Austin stages for years to come.

Best Theatre Den Mother

This actor and playwright watches over the local theatre scene as if it were her own precious charge, gently urging us, often via the rather sinister-sounding e-moniker skeletono, to partake of an eye-catching variety of theatrical work which she helps nurture. When not rallying support for companies as diverse as the Dirigo Group, Refraction Arts Project, Austin Script Works, and the State Theater, she's probably tending to one of her own projects. This year, she'll offer her Harvest Festival winner, A Name for a Ghost to Mutter, at the State and her new play, Fish, at the Blue Theatre.

photo by John Anderson

Best Theatre Staff

These days, it seems like nothing at the movies is guaranteed. Spotty sound, blurred picture, thermostat failure - it happens everywhere. At the Paramount, you can always count on the assistance of one the many smiling faces that comprise the theatre staff to help with any problem. And when things are running smoothly, there's always one around to talk cinema to anyone with a passion for the classics.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress
512/472-5470
www.austintheatre.org

Best Voice Of Authority

Some stage performers need time to develop that convincing sense of experience that grounds them in a character or a song. Not Janis Stinson. The instant this warm, funny actress/singer opens her mouth, whether it's to belt out "Blues in the Night," deliver the poetic musings of a grieving widow in The America Play, or take us "Way Over Yonder" via the music of Carole King, she convinces you that she Knows Whereof She Speaks, that she's Been There and Done That. For Stinson always draws her rich, ripe, husky voice from deep within, straight from her soul, and it gives her automatic authority. That voice, matched with an electric presence and priceless comic savvy, puts Stinson in the top rank of Austin stage artists.

Janis Stinson
Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar
www.zachtheatre.org

Best Year 'round Programming For The 'geist

AMOA's got its finger on the pulse of what it takes to be a citizen of the world - living in Aus,Tex. Wanna be more conversant about film theory at dinner parties? Jump-start a dormant right-brain hemisphere by tapping into your Creative Awareness? Learn how to design your own landscape? Tweak your home-video making skills? The offerings evolve with each catalog season. Great kids' stuff year \'round, as well.

The Contemporary Austin Art School
3809 W. 35th
512/323-6380
theartschool.amoa.org

Cheapest Highbrow Date

You're a student - or just about as tightly budgeted as one (well, one without a trust fund -) You meet hottie. You like hottie. You ask hottie on date, then realize you got no scratch to impress hottie. You hope hottie likes the same things you do. You hope hottie can converse him/herself out of a wet paper bag about art and/or culture or at least is open to learning how. Where better to take hottie than the low-pressure, highly acclaimed galleries on UT campus? The HRC has a Gutenberg Bible, the world's first photograph, and a Franz Kline painting. The Blanton always has something new and thought-provoking. Plus you can count on a 10-minute, tree-lined walk from one culture fount to the other: ample time to make hottie aware of your good intentions.

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK
512/471-5482
www.blantonmuseum.org

Harry Ransom Center
300 W. 21st
512/471-8944
www.hrc.utexas.edu

photo by John Anderson

Coolest Recycling Project

The airplanes no longer fly in and out of Mueller, but the big ol' empty hangars left behind by the move to Bergstrom have not lain idle for long. Re-purposed as movie soundstages, their hulking shells are perfect for housing all the big equipment and make-believe sets that major movie production requires. Although some projects, like Sandra Bullock's upcoming project Miss Congeniality and Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids, have already filmed there, we expect even bigger things to happen once the Austin Film Society and the city of Austin finalize all the management details that are currently in discussion.

Austin Film Society
1901 E. 51st
512/322-0145
www.austinfilm.org

Most Welcome New Art Scene Addition

Walk into this smart small space downtown, now in the midst of its fourth exhibition, and you can feel the professionalism humming in mid-air. David Berman, an affable former Brooklynite, runs a venue where elegantly minimal surroundings can hold all manner of visual wonders. We're still reeling from the site's "Pattern Language" debut and the current show, featuring Ed Ruscha's "Sunliner" series of glass tumblers - more like the ghosts of glass tumblers haunting their background's frames - only makes us thirsty for more.

D Berman Gallery
1701 Guadalupe
512/477-8877
www.dbermangallery.com

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

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